Wednesday, 3 April 2013

The new normal - acceptance rather than optimism.

This article first appeared in Absolute Brighton magazine -  March 2013 

What we are seeing in the market at the moment is a general acceptance that we are living in a changed economic environment. Companies have cut their costs, reduced their staff and revised budgets to take into account a slower economy. These changes have taken their toll over the past two years but it feels that now we are all settling into a new ‘normal’. And companies, including ours, are now looking to maintain and grow their market share from this new base.

So slowly slowly companies are feeling optimistic enough to invest in their future by looking at how they can cost-effectively market themselves to current and new audiences. But there is a caution in the way that this is being done. Budgets are carefully monitored and fixed cost projects seem to be more desirable than open-ended ones. Companies are also looking at their own purchasing and procurement processes to ensure that the very systems that are meant to control costs are not restricting better value purchasing decisions.

We are also finding that clients are looking for a partnership approach – one where we support their in-house resources rather than take everything off-site. They are keen for us to inform their decisions but want their in-house teams to implement, or at least be able to implement some of the work. Their nervousness about the economy is understandably extended to nervousness about taking risks.

Are we seeing green shoots of recovery? I think we are – but at the moment we are having to dig deep to give the shoots the environment they need to grow (sorry about the extended metaphor).

To encourage business growth in Brighton we need to make sure that every small business owner has access to the support they need to ensure they are running their businesses as effectively as possible. A combination of peer-to-peer learning and really good professional support can really change the way a business ‘works’. Business owners themselves should look to develop their networks and to take the time to look at the real value of what they are delivering and who their potential audiences really are. And.. where possible keep the money in the city by using local talent whenever you.

If you'd like to find out more about how Frank! supports Brighton & Hove businesses do get in touch 

Friday, 22 March 2013

What makes a great man great?

Yesterday I was privileged (and extremely chuffed) to be invited to Roger French's retirement celebration. For those of you who do not know of Roger French - he was (until lunchtime today) The Managing Director of Brighton & Hove Bus Company. And he really is a remarkable man. His retirement celebration was in Hove Town Hall - which was crammed with 200 of the great and the good from Brighton and beyond who had come to say their goodbyes. Speeches were given by Michael Beard (editor of the Argus), David Brown (Group Chief  Executive of the Go-Ahead group), Norman Baker MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary for Transport), Caroline Lower (CEO of the Martlets Hospice) and Tony Mernagh (Executive Director at Brighton and Hove Economic partnership). Each speaker identified why they thought Roger had made such a great contribution to the City and to the Brighton & Hove Bus Company. Their speeches were all extremely eloquent and certainly a fitting tribute to Roger.

At risk of sounding like Carrie Bradshaw 'It got me thinking... what is it that makes a great man great?'

In his speech, Roger talked of how he was dealt a hand of aces - a great city, a great company, great people and the right time. In a speech two nights before to his staff, he had talked about how he saw the Brighton & Hove Bus Company as a beautiful jigsaw - and that everyone in the Company was a piece of that jigsaw - and that together they made a beautiful picture.

What these two metaphors tell me - is that what made Roger so refreshing and inspiring to those he worked with and around was that along with being an exceptional MD he was also a man who understood it wasn't just about him. He understood that to do his job as well as he wanted he needed other people to do their job as well as they could too. He needed to trust, to empower, to  energise, to inspire and to motivate his management team, his staff, his suppliers and all his 'partners'. So - yes he learnt their names and he learnt about their lives. He did what he said he would as well as he could and trusted that others would do the same... and they did... And the result of all those people being the best they could was that Brighton & Hove have one of the best bus transport networks in the country. One that is held up as an exemplar, in parliament as well as in the corridors of global transport companies.

I was extremely lucky to work with Roger producing On Route - the Brighton & Hove bus passenger magazine. We had twice yearly editorial meetings and it was at these meetings that I got a tiny insight into the way Roger worked - and over time I realised that of all the people I have known in business Roger is the person I most admire. I love his honesty, his integrity, his generosity of spirit, the fact that he just loves what he does - but most of all I admire his desire to make the world he lives in a better place.

So what makes a great man great? Well I would say a great man is man who makes the people around him shine. And Roger does that in bucket loads.

Best of luck in your retirement Roger and Thank You for showing us how it can be done!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Your business as a network

In a recent change of heart, we have taken the decision at Frank! ( to actively introduced our clients and suppliers, to each other if they could be useful to each others' businesses. This is the first time that we have actually started actively creating a network around our business and for us it feels like a fairly big step. We have always tried to be transparent about the way that we work at Frank! and this is just a development of that transparency. We use a number of designers, copywriters, editors and consultants to support our business offer - all of whom we consider to be vital to the service we provide. We are now encouraging them to speak to each other. In a similar vein we are opening up the opportunities for our clients to get to know each other too. Many of our clients have similar attitudes to their businesses and are equally ambitious for their organisations. These are the similarities that create meaningful networks.

We have applied some basic principals to help develop your business as a network - and they seem to be working.
1) We have set up which is aimed at Brighton Creatives. The initial invitees were all people that Frank! had worked with or were hoping to work with. We meet every other month at a very nice bar in the city. It means that we have a regular time and place to catch up with many of our suppliers, business links and friends.
2) We have included 'developing networks' into our 'on-going marketing support' service offer. So it is a given from the outset that we will help our clients develop or establish their own networks.
3) We are making sure that our clients and suppliers are more accessible to each other via our own website (
4) We are actively promoting the work we do for our clients via our own social media platforms.
5) We talk about our clients to our other clients. If we think our clients and suppliers could benefit by meeting we mention them and put them in touch.

I am a great believer in Networking. Many of my best decisions (both business and personal) have come from chance conversations with people that have sparked ideas that I have then been able to progress and put into action. The more people you meet - the more inspired you can be. In the words of Andy Heath who set up, developed and sold a very successful software company 'It was just five little words from a passer by that changed the way we did business'.  For Andy, those five words were 'You should do that online'.

If you want to know more about the way Frank! can help you develop your networks contact me at

Monday, 4 February 2013

Domestic abuse - painting a new picture

Frank! has been working with Sussex Police to raise awareness about domestic abuse. As part of the campaign we have been working with a group of local youngsters and Wet Paint Productions, to create some great Street Art around Brighton.

Here are a few photos showing what we did at the first workshop (1 of 3) and the wonderful work created by the kids

In the introductory meeting, we all brainstormed ideas and concepts associated with domestic abuse. We stuck post-it notes to a board and grouped together all the concepts the kids thought were important. We chatted about these ideas, why they mattered and how we could communicate them in the final design. 

In preparation for the project  the artists, SNUB23 and Sinna One, taught the young people the techniques you need to create cool street art. The artists then helped the youngsters turn their rough drawings into funky designs (this time not related to domestic abuse) using a temporary wall outside the Brighton Youth Centre.

At our second workshop, all the ideas about domestic abuse had been developed and the youngsters came up with key themes and rough illustrations to be included in the final designs.  On Saturday 9 February, you will see two groups of youngster at the Bond Street and London Road sites painting the final design - if you are passing do say hello! 

To find out a bit more about Sussex Police's Domestic Abuse Campaign, have a look at their website or check out Wet Paint Production's Blog